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Hospice for the homeless: Faith community unites to help provide death with dignity

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2013 6:00 a.m. MST

“We travel all over the country and we meet with other homeless service providers,” said Monte J. Hanks, the clinic’s client services director. “We are often on the cutting edge in terms of the services we’re able to provide here, and people ask us how we do it. The answer is simple: collaboration.

“We have an amazing community here,” Hanks continued. “It is a caring community, a faith-based community. Every faith group, every community service organization, every government entity is at the table, working together to serve the underserved in our community. We have a lot of people who care about our homeless population, and who want to make a difference.”

As a result of collaboration, a team has come together to launch Salt Lake City’s hospice for the homeless. The Fourth Street Clinic with its staff of 50 health care professionals will provide the medical resources needed for The Inn Between. Hanks said that several community hospice organizations are willing to provide hands-on hospice care pro bono. And Thorpe is coordinating efforts with the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and other interested agencies to train and prepare surrogate families to add that much-needed link in the hospice chain.

“We will continue to try to reconnect these folks with their real families,” Chambers said. “But that can be a long process, and sometimes it just can’t happen. So these surrogate families will fill in the gaps and make the whole hospice program work in behalf of indigent people who are coming to the end of their lives.”

Training for the first group of family surrogates is currently underway. And the clinic recently received a two-year, $60,000 grant from the state — “Manna from heaven,” Hanks said — to temporarily cover the cost of hospice housing.

“Ultimately we would love to have a permanent home, a real home, where we can house 3-5 people at a time and care for them,” Chambers said. “That’s really the long-term answer, a place with a resident manager where people can rest comfortably and where volunteer surrogates can come and bring food and provide support.”

“That will happen,” Hanks said, the expression on his face firm and resolute. “I have no doubt of it. This community will make it happen. It always does. Look at what the Catholic Church does at the Weigand Center, or what the Episcopal Church does with their food pantry, or what (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) does at Welfare Square, or what the Presbyterians and Methodists and Unitarians and just about every other faith group I can think of does here in this community.

“These are people of great faith, and they live it,” Hanks said, nodding and smiling knowingly. “Trust me. This facility will happen.”

Meanwhile, the state grant will help provide temporary housing for the Inn Between, while the faith community provides surrogate families to help bridge the gap between a cold, sterile death on the streets or in a hospital emergency room, and a death with dignity surrounded by love, kindness, compassion and faith.

For more information on the the Fourth Street Clinic and The Inn Between, visit fourthstreetclinic.org.

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